I cherish the moments I've gotten to spend watching the round faced toddler we called Squeaker grow into the tough as nails catcher, keystone of her softball team, they call O.G. For a while, really, I didn't know what to think of the whole softball thing. In fact, I openly rejected it, calling it Kryptonite, as it weakens me to think about it. I feared that I wouldn't know how to relate to Zoe's inner jock, or that she would think less of me for my lack of interest in the game. Instead, I found that as in all things, Zoe accepts me the way I am. As usual, she was the bigger person.
Though I find it easy to admire Zoe, I have really struggled with this entry. It's difficult to do her justice with mere words. Ever since the birth of her sister, and my second generation of nieces in Washington, she's made a point of trying to get me to admit she's my favorite niece. While I refuse to commit, I will say I have certainly loved her the longest.
So here I give you 15 reasons I love Zoe:
- She's incredibly smart and hardworking. So much so that last year she earned a full scholarship to a very competitive private high school. The admissions staff even went as far as calling her their "ideal candidate." I'm not surprised they were so taken by her. In fact, she's amazing in every way. I am humbled she still tolerates my presence let alone that she still seeks out my company.
- Smart as she is, she sometimes does deliciously inexperienced things - like microwaving metal - that remind me she is in some ways still a girl.
- Like her mother, she's a horrible speller. Thus, her cat's name is Tabbee. She's a great mom to Tabbee (whose diabetes have led her to death's door at least once, and then it was Christmas Eve). Not only has she faced every crisis with grace and resilience, she's never even considered kicking her beloved companion out of bed for episodes of incontinence. Sometimes I believe that the only reason Tabbee is still alive is because Zoe's willed it so. If only that were enough to truly grant a cat immortality.
- She's got a sort of wicked wit. She never fails to make me laugh. I remember once her mom was surprised when her teachers described her as having an edge, as we always think of her as our sweet Zoe.
- She's not afraid to try new things. Like learning Japanese.
- She's hot and she knows it. Great hair, natural highlights, blue eyes, bright smile. She's so hot, in fact, that I decided against posting a photo that shows her face. (The internet is a scary place for cute girls.) Sadly, though, even in her hotness, she has not escaped the inner critic all women seem to have. She'd like to have six pack abs (I guess her boyfriend's don't count...) and she is, I think, jealous of her sister's boobs.
- Her first word was, "Duh," as in "Duh, Anti Jen," repeated as I was saying goodbye to her mom and lamenting something dorky I'd just said, done, or thought. That pretty much says it all.
- She's a brute. I hate to play even casual sports with her because someone always ends up crying and it's never her.
- She farts like a man. I'm sure she would not appreciate my sharing this particular fun fact, but I couldn't resist. Though I am not the one who coined the phrase (her uncle did, and he sees her least of all her extended family...), I must say it is so very true. Had I not been trapped in the car with so many of her intestinal outbursts, I might not feel so entitled to share.
- She gives a great teenaged dirty look. I suspect she is giving me one now.
- Unlike her sister, she does have a price. She accepted my offer of $50 to eat the bug in the lollipop that Sadie rejected. I have pictures (taken professionally - it was at my wedding) but I swore never to share them. If you come to my house, though, I'll show you. The photographer even caught a tear rolling down her cheek. Before you condemn me for being an awful Anti, please know she was actively involved in the negotiations for this challenge. She'd learned her lesson, to up her price, after I once paid her a dollar to eat a Sardine flavored jelly bean. And I have a photo of her later, proudly displaying her cash settlement. I may have scarred my Zoe, but I don't think it was on this day.
- She's the life of the party. I remember the way she worked the room in her walker when she was just a toddler and her parents were hosting a Thanksgiving feast. A natural flirt, she scooted from guest to guest with a grace and confidence which have only grown through the years.
- She's generous with her time and sensitive to the needs of others. She once watched over Curry (who was captive in the outdoor duck pen) so I could take a shower in peace. I wouldn't feel so bad if she hadn't had wet hair at the time (and if I hadn't reduced Sadie to tears with my insistence that Curry be banned from the house for five minutes) but I really needed a shower.
- As I mentioned before, she's an outstanding softball player, but she's not exactly what you'd call a natural athlete. She's lobbed enough tennis balls over the fence at her local park to recognize she hasn't got the tennis touch. And though she's not a great swimmer or a particularly fast runner, this did not deter her from improving in both areas. She just worked harder.
- She's your classic big sister. I remember playing with her in the yard of her grandmother's house. She was picking up handfuls of dirt and rubbing them onto her infant sister. When I intervened, telling her Sadie didn't like the dirt, she picked up one more big handful and rubbed it in good. Another memorable quote from their childhood, "Zoe, don't hit your sister so hard." Though they don't come to blows very often, now the currency of their conflict is denim. There never seems to be more than one pair of jeans available for them to wear on a school day.
Zoe's beginning to make plans for her life as a grown up. Surely she will go to a great college, probably Ivy League and most likely on a softball scholarship. She wants to be a professional photographer. She intends to remain a city girl. She swears that in her twenties she will not blow all her money on expensive champagne and fancy restaurants (as her mother and I did).
I hope I always have a place in her world. Happy Birthday, Zoe.